Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/28/12

When the Oakland Raiders begin training camp on July 30th, there will be, at most, two spots open for fullbacks. When Marcel Reece signed his tender to stay with the team for at least this season, he assured himself a roster spot. That will leave possibly one more spot available for a fullback when the Raiders begin the regular season.

 

For the last two seasons, Reece has been a huge asset to the Oakland offense. His size and athleticism create matchup problems for opposing defenses and allow him to be used in a variety of ways. He has made 52 receptions for 634 yards and five touchdowns the last two seasons. With his production and value to the team he will be the starter when the regular season begins.

“I think he is an athletic type fullback, and I think where he can really excel is in the passing game and the different mismatches he can create,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said after Reece signed. “I think from our standpoint being the lead blocker in our scheme, I think that is where he has the most work he’s got to work on, but I think his mismatches in the passing game are something we can use.”

If the Raiders have the roster space to keep another fullback, which is unknown, the training camp and preseason competition will come from Owen Schmitt and Manase Tonga. Because Reece is such a weapon in the offense his blocking can be disappointing at times. Both Schmitt and Tonga are known as solid lead blockers. That is the skill they will have to display during camp to earn a roster spot.

In his four year career, Schmitt has made 12 starts, two with the Seahawks in 2008 and 2009 and 10 with the Eagles in 2010 and 2011, before signing with the Raiders in the offseason as a free agent. He was nine career carries, which tells the story on how the West Virginia product likes to play. The 6-2, 245 pound Schmitt is a violent and aggressive lead blocker, capable of opening up holes for the running game. Schmitt is a good pass catcher out of the backfield as well making 34 career receptions. Because of experience, he has the early edge over Tonga if the Raiders keep multiple fullbacks.

Tonga was signed as an undrafted free agent out of BYU by the Raiders after the 2010 NFL Draft. The 5-11, 245 pound fullback is also known for his blocking ability. This offseason Tonga has been out of action for all workouts and camps with a knee injury. He has spent the last two seasons on the Raiders practice squad before being called up in 2011 to fill in for an injured Reece. He made three starts and appeared in 11 games. Because of his time spent of the practice squad already and the time he has spent on the Raiders active roster, he has no eligibility left to be placed on the practice squad. That means the Raiders have to decide to keep him or release him when the time comes to make the decision on the final roster.

As training camp and preseason games begin, it will be interesting to keep an eye of the fullback position. Both Tonga and Schmitt provide an important service as lead blockers in an offense that loves to run the football. There is no way the Raiders can keep both players, so camp and preseason performance will determine who the Raiders keep or if both are released.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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